The MLB offseason is just a week old, but there is already an accusation that clubs are working in concert with regard to free agents.
Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLB Players Association, made the claim Wednesday in response to comments by Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who told reporters Monday that he had already spoken with officials of all clubs but the Nationals and Astros, who were occupied with the World Series.
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"The statements made by Braves GM Alex Anthopoulous call into question the integrity of the entire free-agent system," Clark said. He added that the union will begin an investigation into the comments. "The clear description of Club coordination is egregious," Clark added.
Clark, in his statement, cited this quote from Anthopoulos:
"Every day you get more information. And we've had time to connect with 27 of the clubs — obviously the Astros and (Nationals) being in the World Series, they were tied up — but we had a chance to get a sense of what the other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades."
Anthopoulos responded Wednesday night in a statement released by the Braves that he spoke only about potential trades with the other clubs:
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) November 7, 2019
The players have grown suspicious of teams' motives in recent years as the average salary has decreased and contract negotiations have routinely dragged into February. In February 2018, with close 100 free agents still unsigned, Clark released a statement saying the system was being "attacked" and that the players would stand united.
Later that month, Clark filed a grievance against the Marlins, Pirates, Rays and Athletics, claiming those clubs weren't spending enough of the revenue-sharing money they had received from big-money MLB clubs. The grievance was still active as of last July.
The collective bargaining agreement between the players and teams is set to expire Dec. 1, 2021, but the sides have already begun negotiating toward a new pact.
This article has been updated with Anthopoulos' response to Clark's statement.